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Los Angeles: a city of contrasts. On one hand, a metropolis of aspirations, a place which offers the transient a tantalising glimpse of glamour and permanence. On the other, many dreams drift away, deserted within an urban personification of unfulfilled ambitions. It might not seem like the most obvious place around which to theme an album for a band rooted in Liverpool (albeit via Norway in the case of bassist Tord ?verland Knudsen, or onto London for frontman Matthew 'Murph' Murphy), but that's precisely what The Wombats have done with their third set "Glitterbug," a collection which follows their top five hit "This Modern Glitch."
Completed by drummer Dan Haggis, The Wombats have a long association with Los Angeles. They've played in and around the city numerous times since the release of their debut "A Guide To Love, Loss and Desperation," and even recorded their second album "This Modern Glitch" there too. For the band's core songwriter Murph it also proved to be a fount of inspiration, which gradually mutated into a magnetic attraction.
"Along with Liverpool and London, Los Angeles is my favourite place in the world, but I used to hate it," admits Murph. Part of the appeal was its versatility: the ability to experience "the opulence and anxiety" of the city or the rejuvenating qualities of the easily accessible countryside that lies just outside its borders.
As the process of working on a new album drifted over the horizon, Murph's internal dialogue took on a questioning tone, notably: what was it that inspired him to write in the first place? He soon realised that his greatest strength was writing about both the romance and the failings of modern relationships. The first new song, "Isabelle," placed those issues within the realm of a seductive new location.
"That was based on an idea of going through tumultuous times with a fictional woman from L.A.," he explains. "That became the main inspiration for most of the songs, this false world that I'd created for myself. As time progressed, I'd go to L.A. more and more, and the idea kept on building. The album's about the envy and the struggle and the pretence and the worry and the fear that L.A. -- and every major city in the world -- encompasses."
Instrumentally, most of the songs took one of two directions: back in Liverpool, Tord and Dan's rush of creativity would result in them delivering backing tracks as a foundation for Murph to then build upon in L.A. or London; alternatively Murph would develop the essence of a song on guitar or piano for the band to collectively flesh out -- a process that had served them so well in the past. The slick Eighties synth grooves of "Headspace," for example, originated as an initial idea from Tord before Murph expanded it into one of the album's strongest moments: "I wanted that whole song to feel like you were driving a Cadillac, coming down or hungover. Like an antidote to 'The Boys of Summer.'"